AFTER years of false starts, the great streaming revolution is finally with us. This year marked a year of seismic change when traditional television was forced on to the defensive. Netflix and Amazon Prime had already asserted themselves on the streaming market buoyed by the first wave of so-called binge-watching but they have now been joined by a tsunami of new services, among them Apple TV+, Disney Plus and Britbox.

Linear television still dominates our viewing but each new service chips away at traditional ways of seeing and the gap is narrowing daily as streaming services go mainstream. The top television channels are still the old warhorses of the past – BBC One and ITV – but after them the third most viewed “channel” is YouTube followed by Netflix at number four. The days when BBC Two, Channel 4 and Five could count on their remote control prominence for security seem to be eroding.

Last month two unrelated events coincided. Netflix dominated the Golden Globe Awards with three films – The Irishman, The Two Popes and Marriage Story – all vying for top awards. The ceremony came days after the communications regulator Ofcom reported that conventional broadcasting’s decline is now measurable. There has been a steep dip in live viewing, as households plan their own schedule. Consequently, in 2019 the average viewer is now consuming just more than three hours of broadcast TV – down by a full 49 minutes since 2012.

The National: Marriage Story

It’s not all bad news, especially if you sell watermelons. Last week I had a passing conversation with the man who owns Persia, an Iranian fruit-market in north-east Glasgow. He remarked that lots of young people seemed to be buying watermelons, those of you who have devoted three hours of your life watching Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman on Netflix will already be ahead of me.

READ MORE: David Pratt: Citizens of the world make voices heard in the year of protest

The Irishman features a set-piece scene in which former NYPD detective Bo Dietl plays the Chicago union leader and mob boss, Joseph Glimco, who confides in Frank Sheeran, the Irishman of the drama’s title, played Robert De Niro. The two of them are about to have a meeting with Teamsters’ leader Jimmy Hoffa, who doesn’t like alcohol. Glimco drills the neck of a bottle of liquor into a watermelon, dousing the fruit inside with vodka. The two sit eating slices of watermelon throughout the tense meeting getting increasingly more drunk as the dialogue unfolds. It is a scene which has now become a party game and a clever way of spicing up a Christmas lunch.

Streaming has disrupted how we view and anecdotally most people will now discuss big Netflix dramas with the same familiarity that they once talked about a prime-time BBC show.

On the surface you might imagine that the rise of the streaming services is crippling British television stations and that video on demand supposedly poses an existential threat to telly, but look beneath the bonnet and the story is much more complex.

This is most dramatic among younger demographics where leaked BBC data has confirmed that less than half of people aged 16-34 do not watch any of the BBC’s mainstream channels.

But there is a counter-intuitive logic to this, many of the disappeared have moved to the BBC’s own time-shifting service iPlayer and so are not utterly lost to the corporation.

A superficial impression is growing pace that linear television is struggling against the might of the American streamers.

Netflix is based on a subscription model, and because uninterrupted viewing is of huge appeal to American subscribers, it does not carry adverts in the conventional sense.

Much as Netflix’s success has eaten into our viewing habits it has not substantially dented the television advertising market which remains dominated by ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

Much as there has been a shift in the direction of online advertising, household brands and services still place a huge reliance on reaching mass audiences at home via television.

The National: The Two Popes

America sees the streaming services differently. The New York Times critic Brooks Barnes has argued that the main impact is not so much on television but on Hollywood. “Every three decades, or roughly once a generation, Hollywood experiences a seismic shift,” he recently wrote.

“The transition from silent films to talkies in the 1920s. The rise of broadcast television in the 1950s. The raucous ‘I Want My MTV’ cable boom of the 1980s.

“It is happening again. The long-promised streaming revolution — the next great leap in how the world gets its entertainment — is finally here.”

READ MORE: Hannah Graham: Good grief: how to get over the post-election dashing of hope in seven stages

Lurking in the foothills of the so-called revolution is another trend which is of greater threat to the new services than it is to conventional terrestrial television. There are already signs of subscription anxiety, people signing-up to all the new services then coming to realise that the cost of their home entertainment has shot up.

Change is happening so quickly that viewers are becoming overwhelmed and, early stage studies suggest a major problem is in store for the streamers.

Sizeable numbers of subscribers describe negative feelings driven by fear of fragmentation, erosion of value and the cost of having multiple streaming accounts. In a polemical article entitled Streaming Services Are Going To Bankrupt Us All, Esquire magazine put forward a pessimistic future.

“We’re all going to die broke, direct debiting ourselves into financial oblivion, because everything feels essential,” the magazine argues. “It’s got deeply, deeply silly, but nobody wants to be left behind.”

Although Esquire exaggerates to make a point, there is some deep hard truths in the economics of subscription television. It is easy to sign up to special offers, advance service deals or promotional dramas but we are less good at ending a direct debate or cancelling a bank mandate.

Here’s the rub, when we do make the decision to cancel, either because the platform is less exciting or we simply haven’t watched anything for ages, there is no going back.

The streaming services are already paranoid about churn realising that when consumers cancel their payments, they have done so because they realise that they are not getting value for money or their interest has waned. Getting those customers back is fearfully difficult, if not impossible.

If you currently doubt you could ever fall out of love with Netflix, just look at how live football has both splintered and over-exposed itself on television.

Sport and movies drive the take up of services like Sky and BT, but they may

already have killed the golden goose, shifting kick-off times to suit the schedules, over-saturating the markets with numerous channels and conspiring with the various football authorities to stretch to breaking point the games covered.

A landmark moment came only a couple of weeks ago when Amazon entered the football market bringing the US streamers into competition with both terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

Yet again messages were mixed, some claimed that in areas with poor broadband coverage the streamed games often buffered and there was an irritating delay between real time and the stream itself. Others living in not-spots simply couldn’t access the service.

But set against that was a tantalising innovation, the option to do away with a match commentator – the bane of so many armchair fans – and to crank up the stadium FX button, which allows the noise of the crowd in the stadium to dominate.

This year ended with a bewildering list of new streaming services but like food in the festive season they face a deep feeling of over-consumption.

Like the swollen feeling you get on Boxing Day, more and more consumers say there is simply too much choice and too many options, the enemy of streaming may not be technology nor great ideas, it may be market saturation and a malaise of over-consumption that seems to be spreading throughout society.